In My Own Words: Jean de Dieu Muhire

Jean de Dieu Muhire is our Rwanda Expansion lead. He talks about his growing career in agriculture and why empowering smallholder farmers is personal.
Life at One Acre Fund
JD Muhire

What do you do at One Acre Fund?

I am the Expansion Lead for Rwanda. My job is to help increase our presence and bring our services to new areas in Rwanda by scouting for new sites. I also ensure that the field team, which is responsible for providing customer service to farmers, is properly supported and facilitated to carry out expansion work. 

What did you do before joining One Acre Fund? 

I was the supply chain manager at Zola Electric in Nigeria. Prior to that, I spent about 4 years expanding Zola’s business model in West Africa — particularly Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Nigeria — through launching new country operations.

Did you always want to work in Supply Chain Management?

Not really; my life just sort of took that course. In university, I wanted to study Information Technology but veered to Management, majoring in Operations and Logistics. After that, there was no turning back. 

How did you end up at One Acre Fund?

A colleague at Zola saw an advertisement for an Expansion Lead role at One Acre Fund. He knew I longed to move back home to Rwanda, so he asked if I might be interested in the position. I did, so he set up a call with someone he knew at the organization, who explained what the role entailed. I loved the description, so I applied and interviewed successfully. As it turned out, the person who’d become my first manager had also applied for the same role and the organization decided to keep us both, with me starting in an Expansion specialist role. 

Of all possible careers, why agriculture?

As with many Africans, agriculture speaks to my heart. In Rwanda, the majority of the people are farmers. While growing up, I saw how my family and neighbors struggled to make ends meet through farming, both because of factors outside their control, like drought, and personal ones like lack of farming knowledge, causing them to regularly harvest less than they should have. My decision to apply resulted from me finding my heart and wanting to make a difference for people who matter to me.

In your work, do you speak to farmers often? What do they think of the work the org is doing? 

I do, and our conversations invariably focus on the impact the organization has had on their lives. To them, our presence here means having a constant partner, someone who cares enough to want them to lead quality lives. We enable farmers to access quality farm inputs, plant in time, harvest more, and access good markets. Such testimonies make me want to go to the field more and reach more farmers. 

Today we serve more than 1.3 million farmers in nine countries — about half of those in Rwanda. What does it mean to you to work at this kind of scale?

I feel proud. In many places in Africa, the story of farming is one of struggling to make ends meet. Here we have more than a million farmers for whom the narrative has changed. That makes me feel good about my job. It also challenges me to work to bring more farmers into the program because I know we can reach more. In another year or so, we might work with a million farmers in Rwanda alone. Imagine if we reached a million in every country we work in. That’d be quite something.

What’s your favorite part of the work you do?

I love going to the field, particularly when distributing farm supplies to new sites. There is so much excitement and hope in farmers when they receive their first orders and training brochures. They speak about their hopes for that season and the future. They ask so many questions, and I sit with them and respond to as many of their questions as I can. It is an infectious experience.

Field Officer in Malawi

Let’s shift gears a bit. If you didn't have to do anything for a living, what would you do?

I’d run a social enterprise to provide something essential like water to those who lack it. Bringing joy into other people’s lives is personally very fulfilling to me. 

If you hosted a talk show, who’d you invite first and why?

I’d invite my mom. She raised me on her own, and I’d want to tell her story to the world. Her sense of duty and absolute determination to see me succeed influenced who I am today. 

What's your favorite thing to do outside of work?

I read or listen to audiobooks. And since the lockdown last year, I’ve become a movie addict. 

What kind of movies do you like? 

I love historicals and dramas. I care more for the story than I do for the acting. 

Do you have a favorite?

I love ‘Coming to America,’ both the first one and the sequel. 

Is there anything else that has kept you ‘sane’ while working from home? 

I taught myself to cook, particularly meat dishes. My favorite is roast meat, so I bought a grill, and now I’m my own chef! I also started a home gym.

JD Muhire with his team in Rwanda


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